4 ways airlines could soar using Twitter for customer service


So much can go right when we travel. We see the world and gain new perspectives and insights, we open our eyes and breathe in deeply to relax—we take those experiences home with us and they become valuable, prized memories.

But anyone who’s ever lost their luggage or dashed through the airport in a valiant but vain effort to catch a connecting flight, only to see it pull away from the gate as they watch, panting, knows that getting there—where ever “there” is —isn’t always easy.

I’ve had my share of air-travel mishaps, and more and more my instinct is to turn to social media to either share my misery (after all, it does love company) or to ask for help.

Sadly, many airlines just aren’t quite where I want them to be when it comes to offering up good customer service in real time. I turn to social because it’s fast, it’s in the moment and, often, I’m in mid-air when I realize I’m going to miss my connecting flight. Thanks to in-flight wifi, I can open my smart device and start pleading (or should I say, tweeting) for help.

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Tweeting: A customer service opportunity

Many of us have also been captive to delays while sitting on the runway, and the captain is fresh out of information. In those instances when customers tweet, generally the response is, “We’re so sorry for your delay, thank you for choosing Our Airline Brand.”

Not only is this tone-deaf (Making it less likely to “choose” it again after that response), it’s also woefully shortsighted. With the immediacy and intimacy of social media, there are so many opportunities for airlines to offer outstanding social customer service that would truly differentiate their brand.

If I was in charge of my very own airline, here are four ways I would use social media to give amazing customer service:

  1. Collect social handles from customers when they buy tickets and link it to their record. With this information, a customer-service team could communicate one-on-one with a stranded or dissatisfied traveler, or could help ease the burden on call centers in times of weather-related delays or other crisis’.
  2. Empower the social team with offers that can ease a traveler’s pain. Instead of an, “I’m sorry for your experience” tweet, why not direct-message that user with a coupon code for a free stay in the executive lounge so they can re-book their flight in comfort and with assistance from an in-lounge staff member?
  3. Engage your customers on social media pre- and post-flight. Generate excitement for their trip, and at the same time gather data to create personalized offers. For example, business travelers could get discounts on in-flight wifi. Or, encourage re-booking with personalized offers for upcoming trips.
  4. Make travel fun again. Offer tidbits of information about the destinations your airline is traveling to that day, and provide links to partner brands like hotels, restaurants and attractions. Become a trusted advisor and answer that burning question, “Where can I get a great cocktail in London/Paris/Kansas City?

Customer service is a huge opportunity for growth. Rather than making the news for being abysmal in times of crisis, airlines need to use the power of digital to drive outstanding customer engagement—in bad times, but also in good times.

Jenn Vande Zande
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Jenn Vande Zande

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